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Where Do You Write?

Michael Dechane


It's best that I be as clear about this as I can -- I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course). Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer's job is to use the tools in her or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it's enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth.  - Stephen King, On Writing

The metaphor of writers as archeologists King describes it is my favorite part of his book On Writing. The process of discovery and of clearing away everything that isn't connected to the other pieces rings true to my experience as I work at finding words. It helps me focus. It helps me remember to be attentive, gentle, and decisive at my desk. It is a standing invitation to return to the joy-and-labor of finding and bringing home stanzas, paragraphs. I wonder, though, about where one goes to find fossil-stories: about the nature and topography of this ‘undiscovered pre-existing world.’

As I continue to press on in pursuing the craft of writing, I am discovering that where I go internally is more important than where I decide to break open my laptop, or how many cups of coffee might put me in the sweet zone for the day’s writing work. I don’t have a great way to articulate this yet – maybe that’s why I’m still hung up (or hanging!) on King’s metaphor of digging bones.

At this point, maybe it is as much as I can say that I feel I need to go deeper, or underneath, some strictly rational, manageable ‘place’ to get to a ‘place’ with ideas and words that feel most true, most surprising, most like my real voice. Maybe what I’m looking for is a personal metaphor to capture — and driving directions for how to get back to — that mysterious, wonderful, terrifying place where I find the good words. A metaphor for that place, and for my role in it. Am I alone in this search? Or have you quested after this, maybe found a metaphor that helps you?